May 17th, 2011

Steve Tobin has a skilful love affair with the union of nature and art. His evocative and inspiring works are created from glass, bronze, steel, ceramic.

The Pennsylvania artist is currently exhibiting at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in a show titled, Steelroots: Touching Earth & Sky. The show opened April 16 and will run until January 31, 2012.




The Arboretum features 1,000 acres of lush natural areas including woodlands, prairies and gardens. What a divine paring with Tobin’s fluid sculptures. 16 steel sculptures are placed in and amongst the beauty of the Arboretum’s natural landscapes. They emulate root systems and invite the viewer to touch, lie beneath, and explore the structures in the natural setting.


Steelroots sculpture


Tobin shared with, “The landscape and sculptures will work in tandem to encourage visitors to see the wonders of nature as inspiration for my art”.

The sculptures are made of steel pipes that are bent and rolled to shape, some of which stretch up to 40 feet. Some are black as the abyss, others bright white and some a rust hue. One can imagine how the exhibit’s pieces may show differently as the seasons change around them, a dance of colour, light and relationship between the natural and fabricated.


Steel Roots


Tobin is well known for the incredible work he did in honour of 9/11. His sculpture Trinity Root 9/11 Memorial, is the result of a miraculous story coming out of the chaos of the attacks of 9/11. The fall of the towers crushed a 70 year old Sycamore tree on impact, knocking it over. The tree absorbed the blow and fell in such a way that it protected the historic St. Paul’s Chapel at Trinity Church, leaving it unscathed.


NYC - Trinity Church - Trinity Root


Tobin asked the pastor of the church if he could make the remaining stump and roots into a sculpture and he did just that. Trinity Root 9/11 Memorial, is the only permanently installed art memorial following the attack. The bronze root sculpture is a symbol of solace and hope.

Calgary is fortunate to have a piece of Tobin’s work displayed at the corner of 8th Avenue and 8th Street, SW, Downtown. Calgary Root was installed in 2009, and is also made of bent steel pipe, painted white.


Calgary Root


There is something magical about Tobin’s work; as if the image of the sculptures was captured in a still shot from Disney’s movie, Fantasia. It feels as though you could catch them out of the corner of your eye coming to life, dancing and striding about.

Tobin discusses his vision for his work, “I would like my work to function independent of my time period, so that when my work is seen 500 years from now out of context, out of the art continuum or the museum lineage, that the images are archetypal and universal enough to be reintegrated into society in another form,” as described by Voices Underground an Earthwork by Patricia Goodrich.

What are your thoughts of Tobin’s work? Have any local Calgarians gone to see Calgary Root on 8th and 8th?

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